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Cleaning Up Veganuary

With so many vegan options available adopting a plant-based diet is far easier than you might think. It is not only better for you health wise but veganism also offers a solution to embracing a more sustainable way of living.

I enthusiastically signed up for Veganuary a little over a month ago. Like so many others I was drawn to it after learning of the vast environmental benefits that can be achieved from eating more plant-based foods. Going vegan can seem intimidating to many but I have had the advantage of developing a wide range of vegan products, so knew what the market already offers. There is a vegan swap for almost everything. From the more obvious Beyond burgers, Naked Glory tenderstrips, KoKo yoghurts and Glorious soups to WICKED doughnuts from Tesco, Vivera kebabs and Crackd no egg – egg! The enormous range of so many readily available options has encouraged me to try foods that I would not normally go for and there have been some interesting … and nice surprises along the way.

Huge strides have been made with meat alternatives to match flavour and textures and alongside this it is encouraging to see that nutritional profiles are also being improved. Ulrick & Short has already successfully helped a number of food manufacturers achieve premium textures for meat substitutes. It has also helped to improve nutritional profiles for a wide range of vegan products and continues with rigorous development work for this sector to help it remove E numbers, reduce fat and improve nutritional content. 

With regards to E numbers, a lot of questions have been raised recently over the requirement for methylcellulose (methocel), which is used widely within meat substitutes. Methocel works with a multitude of applications to bind, thicken, emulsify, stabilise and gel, and due to its functionality, finding a clean label alternative has been tricky. However, that all looks to be changing and it is only a matter of time before methocel can be completely replaced with a clean, allergen free alternative. 

It is clear that the industry’s priorities lie firmly with the removal of E numbers and allergens but it is also making significant headway to ensuring that vegan and plant-based options are healthier and offer the right level of nutrients so that additional supplements can be avoided. With so much work going into improving label transparency and content, I think that brands would benefit from labelling products that are ‘naturally’ vegan to not only open up more options but also make it easier for consumers to identify.

 

Moving beyond this, I believe that vegan products will be celebrated more for their plant-based origins rather than being reformulated into more meat alternatives. It is likely that we will see far more gastronomy with the use of herbs spices and other natural ingredients to produce less processed but just as innovative products.

On a personal note, I have found Veganuary eye opening and gratifying in equal measures. I have been encouraged to cook from scratch more, which has resulted in less food waste and cheaper shopping bills. Reassured that there are endless options to keep me satisfied, I will continue to steer away from meat where it is practically possible. My aim will be to have a plant-based diet at least five out of seven days a week. Veganuary has not only inspired me to change my diet but also other areas too – I’ve switched to eco and cruelty free dishwasher and laundry tablets and moved to re-useable face pads. Even if you are a true carnivore, I would encourage you to go meat free, even just for one day a week.

Emma Walker Development Technologist
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